Following the decade of the 70s stars competing on the Snowman – the 80s Snowman Rallies were no less exciting – with a host of legendary Scottish Rally names regularly appearing in the latest Rally Cars – Clubmen also had more entry slots and entries were very healthy, with lots of local media attention.
The British Championship also strengthened its position as the premier home international series – giving spectators in the Highlands regular summertime opportunities to watch the starts on the traditional Snowman stages of the decade.
During the mid 80s the development of Group B cars generated huge interest in rallying globally – and such cars also appeared through the decade on the Snowman Rally – and the high profile of the sport helped increase spectator numbers for all events.
The decade brought high levels of attention to drivers with names would become legend in Scottish Rallying – Heggie, Wood, Grierson, Gillanders, Gallagher, Girvans, Riach, Munro, Clark, Smith, Buckley - to name just a few – in fact the list could go on as an entry in itself!..
However, 1987 would see the arrival of a Scottish superstar in the making – starting from a lowly position of 105 in an unassuming Sunbeam 1600. During this decade another star in the making would drive on the Snowman also – eventually swapping his driving gloves for the roadbook – the 80s saw the combination of McRae and Ringer come together – both Snowman competitors who would later go on to World Championship success. Interestingly no McRae has ever won the Snowman.. Yet!
The Snowman itself lived up to its formidable reputation – the 80s event starting the decade off with deep snow and treacherous conditions – the sun did shine sometimes but still with frosty conditions.
The 1987 Rally saw sponsorship from Austin Rover Dealership McRae & Dick in addition to Ladbroke Hotels, guests at the Rally forum that year included John Davenport & Malcolm Wilson who had a year earlier been competing on the World Championship with the Group B Metro 6R4 – a car without great success on the world stage – but one that would become a regular sight on the Snowman in years to come in a National spec form.
HCC crews were well represented that yea with 28 entries, members competing included Dave Sinclair, and Dave MacDonald competing on his 20th Snowman Rally!.
The event was once again won by Donald Heggie in his Audi Quattro – however despite the high-tech cars, route book diagrams were still hand drawn, and route notes were unheard of.
Dr John Harrington became involved in the Rally in 1987 as a medical officer and we are extremely fortunate that he still continues in the role of Chief Medical Officer. Dr John recalls that in 1987 although the medical kit was OK, the uniform consisted of green waterproofs, wellies and a woolly Cossack hat. Communications were via BT pager, and his transport was a Peugeot 305. Dr Jack MacKellar was the only other doctor on the event, and he also has supported us each year since then. They were required to try to keep up with the main body of the rally, whereas nowadays a doctor is assigned to each special stage along with a rescue unit. Back in 1987 Mac Rescue covered the entire event. Communications have improved dramatically with in car radios and mobile telephones.
1988 saw another innovative ‘first’ when live action from the stage at Ord Hill was shown at the Mercury Hotel Rally HQ and the rally action from the stage shown on a large screen in the hotel foyer……it worked rather well!
The rally also featured Friday evening previews (with action footage) on both BBC and Grampian TV and Moray Firth Radio, over several years, covered the rally with live interviews at both start and finish and hourly updates throughout the event.
David Gillanders won in 1988; Colin McRae was eighth in his famous Nova with Derek Ringer, winning his class by 1.19 from John Gray, third in the class were Robbie Head and Robert Reid, three minutes behind. Jimmy Christie was 13th and David Falconer, co-driven by Tich McCooey was 85th in an Escort.
In 1989 club member, the late Jimmy Girvan entered in his Group A Toyota Celica GT taking overall honours and giving Toyota its maiden victory in British rallying. Jimmy also became the first local member in 25 years to win his home event and this win set him up for a good season, going on the following year to win the Scottish Rally Championship, a feat he repeated in 2008.